The purpose of this scoping systematic review was to inform virtual support group development for informal caregivers of dementia by identifying published approaches, outcomes, barriers, and facilitators.
A scoping systematic review was performed using 5 search engines. Studies were included if they utilized virtual support groups for informal caregivers of persons with dementia. Study details, support group characteristics, outcomes, barriers, facilitators, and recommended approaches were extracted and summarized.
Of 1052 identified articles, 87 were retrieved; 62 were excluded largely because they described other virtual interventions. Groups typically used teleconferences or internet-based videoconferences, included 4 to 6 participants, lasted 60 minutes, and occurred weekly or monthly. Moderators were professionals; moderator training was common. Content focused on support, education, or both. Covered topics included dementia knowledge, caregiving skills, coping, and resources. Costs related to technology, programming, and staffing. Although most studies identified no statistical differences, caregivers described many participation benefits. Common barriers were technology and access. Facilitators included training, technology support, small groups, and skilled leaders.
Clinics desiring to start virtual support groups should consider videoconferencing or telephone approaches with pretraining, technology support, and professional moderators. Clinics need adequate resources, particularly for technology, and identification of locally relevant goals and approach.